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YOUNGSTOWN Official advises caution, not worry, over West Nile virus



Published: Mon, August 26, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



New appointee Marilyn M. Gonzalez says she brings a Hispanic perspective to the board of health.

By WILLIAM K. ALCORN

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The West Nile virus is a serious enough problem to warrant precautions but not enough of a concern to cause the mass hysteria that resulted from finding birds and mosquitoes that tested positive for the virus, says Neil Altman, city health commissioner.

Logically, there would not be positive birds without positive mosquitoes, which spread the virus through their bites. In fact, Altman said, the state health-department laboratory has stopped accepting birds for testing for that reason.

Altman offered some precautions that residents can take at Monday's health-board session. Wear gloves when handling dead birds, and bag them and throw them in the trash, he said.

He also advised wearing long-sleeve shirts, long pants tucked into boots, hats, and mosquito repellent containing the chemical DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) while outdoors.

He said the repellent should contain no more than 10 percent DEET for children and no more than 30 percent for adults, and it should not be applied around the eyes, nose or mouth.

He said the very old and very young and people with compromised immune systems are most at risk from the virus. There have been two deaths in Ohio from the virus, he added.

New member

Marilyn M. Gonzalez, newly appointed to the health board by Mayor George McKelvey, said she thinks she brings diversity to the board by providing a Hispanic perspective.

Gonzalez is human-resources director for the Youngstown Community Action Council and served two years on the Youngstown City Board of Education.

Financial status

Altman told the board the financial news is not good, with budget cuts and $60,000 for buyouts for six employees coming from the department's budget. Five of the six are in the nursing division.

He said the buyouts save the salaries of the lost employees, but "at least if you're paying wages, the individual is here to provide services. It is very difficult to deliver services without sufficient people or funds, yet the community demands the same quality and quantity of services," Altman said.

Board President Brian Corbin suggested that the board look at its long-range strategic plan and perhaps adjust what services can be provided in light of the budget cuts and loss of personnel.

It has been some time since the board reviewed its strategic plan and it is probably time to re-evaluate it in any case, Altman said.




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